I Want to Watch this! An Evolutionary Perspective on the Popularity of Sports

Menelaos Apostolou, Maria Athanasiou


There are many different sports, and some are more popular for watching than others. The present paper attempts to address the question why sports vary in popularity. To this end, an evolutionary framework is employed that indicates that sports have evolved to enable the reliable exchange of information of unobserved traits. Six of these traits are nominated, namely, physical strength, stamina, speed, dexterity, aggression and team spirit. On this basis, it is predicted that sports which require higher competence in these traits, and thus are better in transferring information on these dimensions, are more popular than sports which require less competence. Analysis on data based on 34 different sports supports this prediction. The implications of these finding are further discussed.


popularity of sports; evolution of sports; cultural evolution of sports; honest signaling

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